It’s been over a year now since the onset of the pandemic, the lockdowns, and for many, the abrupt shift into online everything. Platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Hopin have become the new norm to replace meeting rooms, conference halls, and classrooms. Instead of the bustle and banter of hallways, workspaces, and cafes, we hear the calm whirring of the computers we sit in front of for hours on end.
The transition into virtual delivery for SFU Beedie’s Full-time MBA program has been rather smooth for our cohort. It wasn’t a surprise to us, and we all knew what we were signing up for, to some extent. Even though we knew it wouldn’t be the same experience as if we had access to the normal in-person environment, we believed, for whatever individual reasons, that it would still be valuable and worth it.
Now, having completed two full semesters in a fully online format, I think we all have a better idea of how our anticipations and apprehensions have turned out. There are indeed some things about online learning that just doesn’t cut it. Interacting through tiny square boxes, precarious connections, and freebie earphones will never replace the connections only possible through face-to-face exchanges, and the countless technical and logistical issues that arise can’t be ignored. Nonetheless, there are some pretty good things about this whole online thing that I’ve been taking advantage of throughout my MBA program, and here are five of them:
1. No pants, no problem
Being MBA students, we know that dressing up appropriately for an occasion is very important. The virtual environment doesn’t change that, but it does make things easier. When you’re only visible through a screen, you can get away with a little more (or a little less). Especially in the less formal classroom setting and the increasing openness towards the casual these days, sweatpants, T-shirts, and no makeup are common classroom attires. No need to budget extra time to get ready before class either!
2. 2-second transit
Back in the days, location was pretty important. Being in transit for 2 hours a day getting to and from class is no fun, and it can also be a waste of precious time. Not to worry anymore! Since everything is accessed through your handy computer, there’s no need to move anywhere, really. The transit to my morning classes now consists of the long, arduous journey from my bed to my desk—literally a couple of seconds. (Pro tip: If you’re the type who likes to be even more prepared, leave your laptop right beside you before going to sleep.)
3. Back-to-back flexibility
Related to the idea of collapsing transit time in your day-to-day schedule is the possibility of real back-to-back meetings (and I mean to the minute). When leaving and joining a meeting, class, or coffee chat is as quick and easy as clicking a button, you can pack in much more in your day. Perhaps this isn’t the most ideal approach to scheduling your life, but with everything that goes on with school, life, and work while in the MBA program, it’s sometimes necessary or unavoidable, and I’ve had many instances where I was glad I could do it. Online conferences, networking events, and career fairs are also much more flexible in that sense without the need to walk to and from different rooms, and it saves you from the awkwardness of trying to walk out of a room early.
4. The world’s your oyster
When things are expected to be in-person, it limits the geographical scope of your options. Now that virtual is the norm, this isn’t as much of a limitation any more. Throughout these past few months, I have had so many opportunities that were only possible because the location was not a factor. I’ve been able to connect and have coffee chats with individuals in New York; I’ve attended conferences that took place in Toronto; I’ve competed in a case competition in Denver, Colorado in the middle of the term that our school would normally not have been able to participate in. But even on more local terms, I feel that people, myself included, are much more open to connecting with others because of the significantly reduced burden of transit time and the increased ease and flexibility.
Let’s be real, going out often costs money. The things people usually do in each other’s company include eating, drinking, and generally consuming things together. These rituals have changed so much in the past year, though. It is now very normal for people to simply go for walks together, and it is also normal to simply hang out online. What do these have in common? They don’t cost anything. There’s no need or pressure to have lunch together or grab three more lattes than you need in a day. For students in a very expensive program, these savings can really add up.
About the Author
Upon obtaining a BSc in Biology, Yongnak pursued a career in the food services industry working in restaurants and mobile catering. He is currently a Full-time MBA candidate at SFU’s Beedie School of Business and is looking to find new opportunities focusing on relationship building and business development. Growing up all around the world has nurtured in him a love for all things to do with food, travel, and new experiences.